The 34-year-old Suni was one of two breeding males of his subspecies left on Earth.
© Barcroft Media, Getty Images
Suni, seen here at Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy in November 2010, died at age 34.
The northern white rhinoceros is one step closer to extinction with the death of Suni, one of only two breeding males left of his kind.
The 34-year-old animal was found dead October 17 in his enclosure in Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy, possibly from natural causes, the reserve said in a statement. White rhinos are thought to be able to live up to 40 or 50 years. An autopsy is under way, but officials are certain poachers did not kill Suni, as the animal was monitored around the clock.
The death of the rare creature, which had not fathered any offspring, leaves only six northern white rhinos left on Earth, including just one male of that subspecies. The southern white rhino, a related subspecies, is considered near threatened
by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Born at the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic, Suni had been an emblem of hope: He was one of four of the world's eight remaining northern rhinos sent to the Kenyan conservancy
in 2009 as part of a last-ditch effort to save the critically endangered subspecies.